Sino-India clash at Yangtse

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    In News

    • Recently the Chinese troops unilaterally tried to alter the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh.

    More about the news

    • Location of Clash:
      • Soldiers of the two sides clashed in an area called Yangtse, in the upper reaches of Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh. 
      • The entire state itself, and within it, Tawang, are areas of serious contestation between India and China.
    • About:  
      • India’s defence Minister stated that the move by the Chinese troops was contested by Indian soldiers in a firm and resolute manner.
      • He also stated that the ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] from transgressing into Indian territory and compelled Chinese troops to return to their posts. 
      • The scuffle also led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides.
      • Both sides immediately disengaged from the area after the scuffle.

    Significance

    • India-USA Military exercise:
      • The Yangtse incident came days after China said that the joint India-US military exercise Operation Yudhabhyas had violated the terms of the 1993 and 1996 border agreements.
    • Significance of Tawang:
      • Historical:
        • Tawang is the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and an important pilgrimage centre for Tibetan Buddhists. 
        • The 14th Dalai Lama took refuge in Tawang after he crossed over from Tibet to India in 1959, spending some days in the monastery there before proceeding further.
      • Agreed area:
        • Within Tawang, there are three “agreed areas” of differing Indian and Chinese perceptions of the LAC. 
        • Yangtse, which is about 25 km from Tawang town, north of the Lungroo grazing ground, is one of these areas. 
        • As a result, it has been the site of regular “physical contact” between the Indian Army and the PLA, especially as the high ground is on the Indian side, giving it a commanding view of the Chinese side.
    • Diversion from other issues:
      • It is also being claimed that the PLA’s motivation for creating a new crisis along the disputed border, this time in the east appears to be to extend the points of confrontation and keep the issue of India-China border alive at a time when the world is engaged in overcoming multiple crisis emanating from the War in Ukraine.

    Areas of dispute between India & China

    • There are infirmities in India’s boundary with China, both in the east and the west.

    • In the Western sector: 
      • Here India shares a 2152 km long border with China, and territorial disputes over Aksai Chin region of Jammu and Kashmir, with both countries claiming the region as their own.
      • The recent dispute is around the region of the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake, Demchok and the Galwan Valley. 
    • In the middle sector: 
      • Here India roughly shares about a 625 km long boundary with China with a few minor disputes regarding Tibet. 
    • In the Eastern Sector: 
      • Here India shares a 1,140 km long boundary with China and this boundary line is called McMahon Line
      • The major dispute here is around the region of Tawang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, Chumbi Valley (Dokalam Tri-Junction) which India shares with Bhutan.

    Current Scenario of India-China Border engagement

    • Post Galwan Clash:
      • The clash in Tawang took place two and a half years after the deadly encounter between the two sides in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June 2020.
    • Disengagement at “friction points”:
      • After the Galwan Valley Enounter, the two sides held 16 rounds of talks for disengagement at the so-called “friction points”.
        • In other words, friction points are the areas where the incursions had taken place, and Indian patrolling parties were being prevented from accessing places that they had patrolled earlier.
    • Creation of “buffer areas”:
      • The disengagement has led to the withdrawal of both sides from eyeballing each other at such places, including Galwan, Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs, and the creation of “buffer areas” at these places. 
        • While this has reduced the chances of hair-trigger situations, the status quo that existed before the incursions has not been restored.
    • Issues:
      • China’s Infrastructure development:
        • The de-escalation of tensions envisaged under this plan has proved elusive, infrastructure development on the Chinese side has continued apace, including the building of roads and even two bridges over Pangong Tso, giving the PLA easier access to the souther bank of the lake.
      • Deployment of troops:
        • Over the last two years, the deployment of troops in the forward areas of the LAC at Ladakh has become a permanent feature. 
        • The Chinese activation in the eastern sector is to be viewed against this backdrop of military tensions, and serves to divide the attention of India’s security planners as it deals with new situations.

    Way ahead

    • As stated by India’s External Affairs Minister, India-China relations cannot be normalised without peace and tranquility on the border.
    • The best lesson that we can learn from our 1962 debacle is that India must never lower its guard and must deploy sufficient military and logistics capabilities to respond to any surprise from the Chinese side.
    • To ensure that the nation’s security interests are fully protected, the government should step up the development of border infrastructure, including the construction of roads, bridges, etc.

    The objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas should not only be to meet India’s strategic and security requirements but also facilitate the economic development of these areas.